The Wilderness Arts and Literacy Collaborative (WALC) is an academic program that utilizes environmental education as the central, unifying theme with which we integrate science, English, social studies, art, technology, and math.
Field experiences such as hiking, camping, habitat restoration, and recycling are woven together with classroom coursework and provide the experiential foundation for a challenging academic curriculum.
Outdoor learning and classroom learning complement and build upon one another to create a more intercon- nected educational experience for students.
WALC is a teacher initiated non-profit organization, ongoing at Balboa and Downtown Continuation high schools, both in San Francisco.
Both Balboa and Downtown serve predominantly low-income and at-risk students of color.
More than 70% of Balboa and Downtown students are classified as Educationally Disadvantaged Youth (EDY) based on qualification for free or reduced lunch, receipt of public assistance, residence in public housing, or standardized test scores below the 40th percentile. As such, WALC’s primary objective is to offer our particular students an alternative way to learn in order to facilitate their accomplishment of greater academic and personal success.
Furthermore, while our students face some of the city’s most acute environmental problems in neighborhoods like Bayview-Hunter’s Point, Sunnydale, and Midway Village, the vast majority has not had the opportunity to experience the wonders of our natural environment. It is thus an additional objective to immerse our students in wilderness experiences that can stimulate, motivate, inspire, and teach them.
WALC operates within the existing structure of each school.
Balboa is currently organized into thematic academic pathways for all juniors and seniors. WALC is one of the pathways students can choose, in which they are enrolled from the beginning of 11th grade to the end of 12th grade.
Downtown is structured into several self-contained, interdisciplinary “project teams” which all students choose from to enroll in each semester. WALC is one such project, which students can participate in anywhere from one to four semesters.
Existing within the school day (aside from weekend camping trips) allows WALC to serve our diverse, at-risk target population and allows any interested student therein access to our program. Independent non-profit status enables us to secure grant money to fund the activities our schools cannot afford, making WALC free for students. About 35 juniors and 35 seniors participate in WALC each year at Balboa, and 40 students per semester join WALC at Downtown.